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Gardner v. MacK

United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division

December 8, 2014

DONALD E. GARDNER, III, AIS #283161, Plaintiff,
SHERIFF MACK, et al., Defendants.


BERT W. MILLING, Jr., Magistrate Judge.

This action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 brought by an Alabama prison inmate, Donald E. Gardner, III, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, was referred to the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rule 72.2(c)(4), and is now before the Court on Plaintiff's Complaint (Doc. 9), and Defendants Sheriff Mack, Cpl. Johnson, Officer Rowell, Cpl. Robinson, Sgt. Means, and Officer Scott's Answer and Special Report.[1] (Docs. 24, 25). The Court has converted these documents into a Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 14), and, after consideration of such, and for the reasons set out below, it is recommended that Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment be granted and that all claims asserted against them by Plaintiff be dismissed with prejudice, and that judgment be entered in favor of Defendants and against Plaintiff.

I. Facts and Proceedings

As a preliminary matter, the Court notes, and Defendants point out, that Plaintiff originally filed his seventy-three-plus count, sixty-four page Complaint on an outdated form, and without the $350 filing fee or a motion for leave to proceed without prepayment of fees. (Doc. 1). Plaintiff was accordingly ordered to file his complaint on an updated form in conjunction with the proper filing fee or motion for leave to proceed without the prepayment of fees. (Doc. 2). Plaintiff was advised in the order that the new complaint would wholly supersede the old complaint and that he shall not rely on the former filing. ( Id. ). Plaintiff failed to comply with this specific instruction, and instead filled out the updated form referring to his originally filed complaint throughout the new form with a Motion to Convert Plaintiff's Initial/Prior Complaint Into Plaintiff's "New" Complaint. (Doc. 4). Plaintiff also requested leave to proceed without prepayment of fees. (Doc. 6). The Court granted Plaintiff's request to proceed without the prepayment of fees, but denied his motion to convert the old complaint into the new complaint. (Doc. 7). Plaintiff eventually filed a properly formatted Complaint (Doc. 9), on which Defendants were served and are now before the Court on their Answer and Special Report that the Court converted into a Motion for Summary Judgment. (Docs. 24, 25, 26).

In reviewing Plaintiff's Complaint, the Court found Plaintiff's Complaint to be a poor "copy-and-paste, " near-nonsensical compilation of allegations seemingly from other filings from other cases, all of which may or may not be directly related to the claims Plaintiff purports in the present action. In their brief, Defendants also notate these same inconsistencies, and ask that the Court dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint for failure to comply with the Court's previous orders. (Doc. 25 at 2). Though a failure to comply with this Court's orders is a ground for automatic dismissal, the Court will nonetheless cipher through Plaintiff's claims, resolving them as the law applies thereto. As Defendants, Plaintiff names, Sheriff Mack, Cpl. Johnson, Officer Rowell, Cpl. Robinson, Sgt. Means, and Officer Scott. (Doc. 9 at 12-14).

At the time of the events in question, Plaintiff was being housed at the Baldwin County Jail awaiting sentencing and his prison assignment with the Alabama Department of Corrections ("ALDOC"). Apparently, since filing this Complaint, Plaintiff has been assigned to Fountain Correctional Facility in Atmore, Alabama where he presently resides. The Court has discerned from both parties' submissions that Plaintiff's allegations stem from three separate incidences wherein jail officials were forced to remove Plaintiff from his cell for disciplinary reasons.

Plaintiff was first booked into the jail on June 7, 2011; he was released on July 14, 2011, but rearrested on September 7, 2011, remaining incarcerated at the jail until May 1, 2012, when ALDOC obtained custody of him. (Doc. 25 at 3-4). During his stay at the jail, Plaintiff was a problem inmate incurring multiple disciplinary infractions, which eventually led Plaintiff to sharing a cell with inmate Brent Jacoby, who was also an extremely troubled and difficult inmate. (Doc. 25-2 at 2).

As their total body of evidence, Defendants submit each officer's affidavit, Plaintiff's booking documents, audio and video clips of the interviews between jail officials and Plaintiff, as well as audio and video clips of the altercations involving Plaintiff, plus the documents and disciplinary/incident reports related to each altercation.

The audio and video clips were submitted on two compact discs, Exhibit F and Exhibit H. On Exhibit F, there are three audio and video recorded interviews of Plaintiff being led by Investigator Griffith. Though it is unclear to the Court whether each meeting took place before or after the altercations, the Court finds the timing of the meetings irrelevant. Rather, it is the substance of the meeting and the way the jail officials treated Plaintiff that bear the most weight on Plaintiff's Complaint.

On Exhibit H, there are three audio and video clips of each altercation involving Plaintiff. Plaintiff contends in each recording and throughout the Complaint that his treatment during the events was unconstitutional. However, Defendants' video submissions depict Plaintiff's treatment differently, and nowhere near unconstitutional. For that reason, the Court relied heavily on the evidentiary materials submitted by Defendants, as we found Plaintiff's recollection of the events to be a convoluted, near nonsensical account of the events, presented through mis-numbered pages and paragraphs throughout the entire Complaint. ( See generally Doc. 9).

On Exhibit F, the Court gathers that at least one interview took place before the altercations, and one interview maybe took place after, though none of the interviews are clearly dated. In the first interview, prior to the initial altercation, [2] Plaintiff sent a letter to Sheriff Mack regarding multiple issues that concerned him at the jail. It is jail policy and procedure to investigate grievances and requests, such as Plaintiff's, by the appropriate staff member with the lowest level of command, with appeals climbing the chain of command ending with Sheriff Mack. (Doc. 25-1 at 3). Investigator Griffith, along with other jail officials, responded to and personally met with Plaintiff to discuss his concerns. This meeting was held in a conference room with a table and chairs, with Plaintiff sitting at the end of the table, and the other officials seated along either side of the table. A respectful and considerate conversation was had between Investigator Griffith, the other jail officials and Plaintiff. ( See Ex. F). This respect and consideration is recurrent throughout all three recorded interviews submitted by Defendants. ( Id. ). The interviews covered a long, itemized list of Plaintiff's menial concerns including: access to "good" soap and other toiletry items through commissary, access to paper, envelopes and pens for legal endeavors, whether jail guards speak sternly or tenderly to inmates at the jail, why Plaintiff does not have access to a designated mental health care specialist, why there is not a rabbi on staff to bless his meals and approve them as kosher, why there is not a rabbi available to him to lead him in his Jewish faith and "religiously cleanse" him, why his food gets cold before he receives it, why there is not a "shower crew" designated to clean the showers since inmates don't want to clean the showers themselves, why he can't get extra towels, why there are roaches and ants in the jail, why he can't be in a cell alone instead of with other inmates who claim to have murdered people, why he can't utilize a "kiosk" to place orders for items from the canteen, why the air vents are caked with dust and "dander, " and why there is no air conditioning in E-dorm, among many other complaints from Plaintiff. ( See Id. ). Though no violations were found regarding any of Plaintiff's laundry list of complaints, Plaintiff was nonetheless given an opportunity to suggest a remedy for each item that was discussed, which he did. The officials noted that that some of the suggested remedies were not feasible (due to federal, state and county laws, budget constraints and availability of volunteers for religious services, etc.), but that some of his suggestions could potentially be incorporated at the jail. ( Id. ).

Concluding the meeting, the jail officials asked Plaintiff if he was satisfied with how the meeting proceeded, whether he was satisfied with the officials' agreement to implement some of the feasible remedies Plaintiff suggested, and whether Plaintiff felt like he was treated fairly and listened to by the officials, to which Plaintiff gave a resounding positive response indicating how appreciative he was of them taking their time to sit down with him and go over his complaints. The jail officials even extended sincere apologies to Plaintiff regarding his feelings of mistreatment and discontent during his stay at the Baldwin County Jail. Plaintiff shook each official's hand as the meeting wrapped up and thanked them for their efforts.

The second interview covered similar topics, and was conducted in a similar question-and-answer, respectful manner. The third interview appears to take place after the physical altercations, as he questions whether he is being recorded and indicates that he does not wish to be recorded talking about the events that had occurred. This interview likewise covers similar topics as the first two, and is conducted in the same question-and-answer, respectful manner.

The audio and video evidence of the first altercation, which apparently took place on April 23, 2014, shows a number of officers approaching Plaintiff's cell in response to him banging on his cell door excessively asking to speak to a sergeant. ( See Ex. H, Track 1). As the officers reached his cell, Plaintiff ducked under a blanket in near-fetal position while still yelling to see a sergeant. ( Id. ). As the officers opened his cell to pull him out, Plaintiff went limp, becoming dead weight and dragged the blanket out of the cell with him. Plaintiff continued to refuse to cooperate and held the blanket over his head as the officers attempted to pull it off of him. To achieve Plaintiff's compliance, he was maced in the head/neck area until he cooperated. At this point, Plaintiff is laying on his belly with his hands cuffed behind his back and shouting that "this is unconstitutional treatment, man, f***!... I'm not resisting!... Y'all [sic] want to f*** with me, man, I didn't do s***! I was not resisting! I want a sergeant!" ( Id. ). The officers then lifted Plaintiff to his feet and walked him to a water closet to be decontaminated from the mace. Plaintiff alleges in the Complaint that the closet was filthy and smelled of dirty mop water and that he did not want to be decontaminated with dirty mop water when he could be rinsed off at an eye fountain down the hall. The Court acknowledges that there were mop buckets stored in the closet where Plaintiff refused decontamination, but we also note that, on the video, the closet was well lit and did not appear to be unclean or unkempt. The officers instructed Plaintiff to bend over toward the faucet so he could be decontaminated from the mace, but Plaintiff refused, belligerently stating, "I want a rag to wipe my face. Don't spray my face. Don't spray my face!" ( Id. ). Plaintiff was then walked out of the water closet and placed in a restraint chair, still yelling that he didn't want his face sprayed, and that he wanted to speak a sergeant. ( Id. ). The officers asked him again if he wanted to be decontaminated and Plaintiff said yes; the officers loosed the restraints, and ...

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